How a Dermatologist Maintains Healthy Skin When Spending More Time in Indoors

Tips for adjusting your regimen to a new lifestyle.

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This is not a test, this is our new reality. Life for many of us around the world has shifted dramatically this month (or the last 48 hours even), and remaining either isolated or quarantined has become a necessity in the wake of COVID-19, the rapidly spreading strain of the coronavirus.

“Indoor captivity” might be a more direct way to describe it, as Dr. Alicia Zalka, the founder of Surface Deep and a dermatologist with over 25 years of experience, told HYPEBEAST. “You may have heard the term ‘cabin fever’ which is thought to have its origins in the 1800s related to the bacterial epidemic known as typhus,” she explained. “Like we are now, people were forced to stay indoors away from others.”

“For the skin, the lack of humidity in indoor spaces is probably the number one problem.”

Forced confinement makes it that much more necessary to keep our health, both physical and mental, at the top of mind, which includes our skincare. Limited exposure to the outdoors means losing out on the sun’s vitamin D, the stimulation from moving around, and even just good old fresh air. But Dr. Zalka has outlined several easy adjustments for keeping your skin refreshed, not to mention pointing out the opportunity to “treat ourselves” to at-home activities that we previously couldn’t make the time for.

HYPEBEAST spoke to Zalka to gain insight on maintaining healthy skin as our time indoors ramps up. Read on below for tidbits on vitamin d supplements, moisturization, diet, and more.

Spend Reasonable Time Outdoors

The guidelines of staying indoors in order to quell the outbreak are not to be taken lightly, but it doesn’t mean that the outdoors shouldn’t be accessible whatsoever (for New Yorkers in fact, Governor Andrew Cuomo has recently waived all entrance fees to state parks and trails). Breathing recirculated air and the steady stream of “blue light from our devices” are just some of the negative attributes that we are exposed to at unhealthy rates during a time like this, Zalka explains.

“When one is indoors held ‘captive,’ it can drain our patience and affect our well-being. It is so important to find time to get outdoors at least for moments of time to refresh,” Zalka said. “The sounds and sights of nature have healing qualities. Studies of ‘forest bathing’ or ‘Shinrin-yoku’ suggest that spending time in green spaces (forests or even urban parks) reduces cortisol levels, which in turn can reduce illness and stress.”

Beyond the mental effects of staying indoors, the air quality in our homes may not always be the best. “For the skin, the lack of humidity in indoor spaces is probably the number one problem. The skin gets dry and dull craving moisture, like a hothouse plant out of its element, left to dry out,” Zalka said. “Drinking water can only partially ameliorate this, as the skin loses moisture from its surface to the air via evaporation and has difficulty retaining its suppleness without ambient humidity fostering it.”

Mind Your Vitamin D Supplements

Implementing a vitamin D supplement into your daily routine is probably one of the most obvious adjustments to make if it’s not already on your usual agenda. Dr. Zalka stresses that checking with your physician on the proper dosage is just as important as taking the nutrient itself, noting that “there is such a thing as too much Vitamin D.”

“Vitamin D supplements are a safer and more efficient way of obtaining this necessary nutrient than ‘overdoing it’ in the natural sunlight or worse yet, tanning bed. Vitamin D supplements do not come with the risk of sunburn or DNA damage to skin cells!” she cautioned.

“The sounds and sights of nature have healing qualities.”

Zalka recommends pairing supplements to make the most of them. “For increased absorption, consider taking your Vitamin D with Omega-3 Fatty Acid supplements. Vitamin D is fat-soluble and is best metabolized when taken with a fat or oil containing pairing.”

Take Advantage of the Downtime

It’s not every day you get to pamper yourself in the comfort of your own home; because there’s nothing else to do and nowhere else to go. Why not try that body butter or hydrating face mask that’s been sitting around (or maybe use the time as a solid reason to test out a new one).

“Face masks (vis-a-vis a home facial, not the surgical masks that are in short supply), eye masks are indulgences that we now have some time for and allows for relaxing (a much-needed commodity). Practicing meditation,” she said. “Get feet and legs elevated which helps with circulation…recline!”

Now is also an optimal time to do self tests we may have been putting off. “Do self-skin exams looking for any new, changing moles or any non healing wounds or other skin spots that stand out from the others. With extra time on your hands you can do the same for a loved one.”

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Keep Your (Washed) Hands Moisturized

By now we should all know, and be following, the 20-second hand-washing rule. But amidst all that washing, there are simple steps we can take to help our hands retain the moisture that we may be stripping away.

“Before you wash your hands, apply a dab of moisturizer and rub it into the skin, then do your handwashing…the skin will be left softer,” she advised. “Before you go to sleep (the only time during the day you get a break from handwashing), apply a thick shea butter moisturizer or essential oils to your hands and cuticles. Apply cotton gloves and allow them to have a moisture treat before bed.”

Monitor Your Diet

For some, the time spent at home likely means an increase in home-cooked meals, which can luckily work to our benefit. Opting for produce like beets, carrots, and kale can help us take in the nutrients that are believed to enhance the skin’s glow.

“Take advantage of not eating out or ‘grabbing’ lunch on the run. You will find you have lower sodium and fat in your home-cooked meals versus meals out,” she explained “If you’re not rushing to get to work you might have time for something other than a gulped down high-octane coffee.”

When you are able to go grocery shopping, look for particular produce. “Increase your consumption of ‘colorful’ fruits and vegetables. Studies have shown that eating foods high in antioxidants and beta carotene, those that have intense orange, purple, red or deep green colors, can make one’s complexion appear brighter.”

Don’t Believe the Hype

As is prone to happen during a widespread panic, there are some myths circulating among the news. In particular, Dr. Zalka clarifies information about one recently sold-out item at retailers far and wide: hand sanitizer.

“Hand sanitizer, which has in the last few weeks been in short supply, does not do a better job than soap and water. It is more convenient to use when you do not have access to running water, but when you are at home, old fashioned hand washing at your sink…is tough to beat,” according to Zalka. “Plus, if you purchase a brand like Dove or Cetaphil cleanser, you will likely find less chance of skin dryness than the constant use of alcohol-based sanitizer.”

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